An Amazing Sensación, Unhindered by COVID-19

An interesting thing happened when a global pandemic landed directly in the path of an opera composed by a Spanish national hero. This is the story of how millions of people from various geographies, speaking different languages – but all with a love for opera – connected via technology to celebrate the beauty of culture and composition.

March 11, 2020 started out as any other ordinary Spring day should. The headlines of the day continued to raise awareness and some concern over the COVID-19 virus that was running rampant in Wuhan, China. The world watched, not knowing how this would play out. As the day played out and turned into night, the impact of the virus’ spread in the US was felt as the NBA shut down its season. Thursday March 12th would be a day unlike any other for Videon CEO Todd Erdley. “At 6:30pm, I received word the company had to shut down as a decree from the Governor of Pennsylvania. We had no idea what was going to happen at Videon.”

The next day, an interesting thing happened halfway around the world. If I told you that a combination of technology, music and a global pandemic would create an event with such human interest that it resonated with people all around the world, you might look at me with your head slightly askance. And you would be right, but a global pandemic will change things we once thought were fairly predictable.

Music and movement uplift people around the world

Months of preparation had been spent perfecting the music and movement. Thousands of people had purchased tickets. But, thanks to COVID, the event was not to be. The Taipei Opera’s historic performance, a Taiwanese premiere of El amor brujo (ballet) and La vida breve (opera) by world renowned Spanish composer Manuel de Falla was to be held at Taiwan’s national opera house (the Taichung National Theater) on March 21. COVID-19 had other plans, of course – and the event was canceled. However, the performers were allowed to have one dress rehearsal the night prior. Ren Egawa, CEO of Rexcel, and longtime partner of Videon, had planned to be there. But local authorities and health officials ruled that out, as no one beyond the performing company and theatre staff were allowed inside the venue.

So amid a growing pandemic and an uncertain number of months ahead, technology and a bit of ingenuity enabled the opera to be viewed, live, by over 10,000 remote viewers in real time. Overall, the performance has since amassed more than 50,000 views from people around the world after just a month. Before the pandemic, no one could have predicted this much interest and from across the globe. Delivering a Taiwanese premiere of the Spanish music masterpiece brought in viewers from Spain, France, Italy, various countries in Latin America, and America, to watch a performance held in Taiwan which, had it been performed live, would only have amassed an audience of a few thousand. Still, Videon CEO Todd Erdley found the performance to be just what the doctor ordered. “I’d been following news of the spread of the coronavirus, and was beginning to think about what the implications might be to my family, the company and our customers. The emotions associated with not knowing if the company would survive let alone our colleagues and their families would be safe balanced against seeing a world wide audience watch the opera made the live streaming of the opera something I will never forget.” Despite the proverbial grey clouds gathering, Erdley says the music and movement were a much needed lift.

The lift was felt halfway across the world, too. “I told everyone in Taiwan this: Rexcel and Videon gave our performance the wings to fly. And fly it did… landing in Spain’s Andalusia where Manuel de Falla was born and caught the attention of an Andalusian conductor who is one of the principal conductors at the Ballet Nacional de España and a proponent for Falla’s music,” says Dau-Hsiong Tseng, Taipei Opera’s Music Director. “Thanks to this livestream, he was able to witness our production’s serious approach and respect for Falla’s masterpieces even though Taiwan is thousands of miles away from Andalusia, and naturally we became good friends. The stream brought miracles beyond imagination.“

Technology meets simplicity

A key component in making this event fly was the simplicity of setup and operation. Of particular note is that neither Ren nor any of his staff were able to enter the opera hall to setup the equipment that would provide the rehearsal stream to the audience. They had to physically hand the devices to security, in hopes that personnel inside could make it all work. Rexcel Simple livestreaming as a service (LaaS) powered by Videon’s EdgeCaster offers an unprecedented simple setup that reduces the complexity and cost associated with high-quality livestreaming. Rexcel Simple LaaS pre-configures and pre-tests multiple EdgeCaster encoders matched to the number of camera feeds that the organizer plans to use to multi-stream to a YouTube account or content delivery network (CDN) of their choosing. This setup allows each remote audience member to select their preferred camera view during the live event. The key takeaway here is that video technology is now so simple and yet sophisticated that non-technical people such as a Opera conductor or staff can operate and provide a world-class experience.

So as the curtain dropped at the end of the rehearsal, and despite the uncertainty of what lay ahead – an interesting intersection of opera aficionados, technologists, and viewers who needed some levity – an opera united them all, if only for a short time.

The opera that keeps on giving

The Taipei Opera’s 2020-2021 season is set to begin at the end of this month on September 26th. To the surprise of many, but to no one reading this story, is the news that they have been chosen to open the season by performing El amor brujo and La vida breve – this time with a full orchestra and audiences. But that’s only the beginning of the phoenix-like rise of this event. The connection between the Taiwanese opera company and the Spanish national ballet that was forged by the pandemic rehearsal is breathing life into the ‘reboot’, if you will.

The principal conductor of the Spanish national ballet will be flying from Madrid to Taipei to participate in this gala event, and will conduct the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra. Further, both Spanish and Taiwanese personnel will be shooting a documentary for viewing after the gala. Both films will be merged to create a complete documentary film.

There will be a limited in-person audience, and as you would expect, this gala will be livestreamed and Rexcel and Videon are excited to help deliver this to a global audience. Given the interest in the rehearsal, the opera house has chosen to double the upstream bandwidth from 20Mbps to 40Mbps, which will provide for two 4K simultaneous livestreaming channels. Each will be set to 20Mbps to showcase EdgeCaster’s ability to deliver optimal video quality.

So as we globally emerge from this pandemic, it seems these are the stories that help form and shape us for the days ahead. In this case, the intersection of the human elements, technology and beautiful music and performance serve to show us that better days are ahead, while also helping us to recall the challenges we’ve faced. We look forward to the challenges and moving video.

Authored by Matt Smith

Matt Smith is a recognized digital media industry evangelist and thought leader, having spoken at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, IBC, and various other shows.  He’s served in a variety of roles in the industry during his career, with stops at Comcast, Brightcove Anvato, Envivio and others.

Time – the one thing we cannot afford to lose

Time. .  We spend it in a wide variety of ways – at work performing tasks and creating things we’ve been tasked with.  We also spend time in our vehicles or on our bikes, headed to and from work.  And – given the present pandemic we face here in the US, many of us are spending more time with our families and working all in the same place.  I once asked a billionaire to identify the one thing he couldn’t buy but that was the most valuable thing in his life.  His answer?  Time.  No matter how we look at it, time is one of the most important yet finite elements in our lives.  We generally end up wishing we had more.  

The pandemic we are all living with today has had a hand in changing many things about life – how and where we work, how often we venture out of our homes, and what we do when we are home and not working.  We all have stories (and likely opinions) about quarantines, and I won’t digress here – but rather make a compelling point that shows a collective 50% increase in streaming data usage by device since April 2020. 50%, that is significant!  So while we have had more free time during this pandemic, more and more of us have turned to streaming services to consume more content.  In fact, as many as one-quarter of us had so much time at hand, we subscribed to another service.  Bottom line – pandemic or not, we are streaming more content to our devices than ever, and the trend shows no signs of slowing.

But what happens when the train is late?

So the subheading might be a head scratcher.  But here’s the problem.  You have that extra free time, sports leagues are back in play and games and other coverage can be streamed, but the game is several seconds behind real time and you’ve catching goals, home runs, and soon to be touchdowns after they happen. 

As in this example, John Appleseed up top is watching a feed of the football match and sees the shot on goal.  His friend Tim is also watching, but appears roughly 6-7 seconds behind John in the stream he’s watching of the match. This offset has been

 measured recently at as much as 30 seconds, and we see 15 seconds on a regular basis.  So they are both enjoying their experience of the event, until the shot on goal.  

So, when John shoots Tim a text to celebrate the goal, Tim is perplexed.  He hasn’t yet seen the same shot John has.  In video streaming, this condition is called latency.  Latency is defined as the delay before a transfer of data begins following an instruction for its transfer. For purposes of this discussion latency is the delay between the live shot on goal and the time when the viewer can see the goal on their device.  When video is processed for streaming, often times the source is passed from the venue – in this case let’s say it is the stadium – and the stream ladder of renditions is created in the cloud somewhere.  So in essence, there is very little processing of these streams at the edge and nearly all that work is done via a transcode step in the cloud.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, but it does create latency that can be visualized in the example above.  This condition is most notable in live applications like news and sports, when things change moment by moment.  So in short  – latency steals time.

 

Time travel – is this a thing?

In a word, no.  Science fiction nor special effects are needed to accelerate the delivery of streaming video to the device of your choice.  However, there is a lot that can be done to reduce the amount of time elapsed between that proverbial goal happening on the pitch and the time you actually see it on your device.  By processing the actual steams you’ll consume on a device and not in the cloud, we are able to deliver those to a content delivery network (CDN) and reduce latency to near 1 second.  This means you are seeing that goal roughly one second after it happened in the stadium.  That’s significant.  

If you’re watched the Netflix series The Umbrella Academy, we’re not exactly not talking time manipulation and travel as their character  Number 5 is able to do, moving through time and changing global outcomes, but what I’ve just outlined represents a measurable improvement in how we consume live streaming video.  Again, this isn’t a cloud versus on-premise argument or endorsement, but a different approach to delivery when time matters most – usually in news and sports applications.

Time is important for many reasons, and this is just one.  Offering broadcasters and publishers the flexibility to deliver their content using contribution or distribution architecture is yet another element of flexibility that is at the core of what Videon is.  It’s about time.  

 

Authored by Matt Smith

Matt Smith is a recognized digital media industry evangelist and thought leader, having spoken at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, IBC, and various other shows.  He’s served in a variety of roles in the industry during his career, with stops at Comcast, Brightcove Anvato, Envivio and others

Delivering Amazing Things in Parallel with a Pandemic

It isn’t often that we encounter something really remarkable. You’re reading this and saying, ‘Sure, smart guy – COVID-19 has changed the game for us all – what else have you got?’’ Conceding the present pandemic has skewed our collective perception of what is and isn’t remarkable – I’ve recently interacted with something new that is definitely noteworthy and I want to tell you more about it.

The present pandemic has driven the consumption of video streaming to heights faster than we’d imagined, faster and beyond any and all expectations. On one day, April 4th, Americans watched 27 billion minutes of streaming video. In one day. Early on in the nationwide quarantine, there appeared to be a growing number of industry experts wondering if there was enough bandwidth available to all who wanted to watch video as they sat isolated with their friends and loved ones. One writer even touted the efficiency in a relatively new color compression scheme in use as a quick savior (HDR), enabling visually compelling experiences while saving the amount of bandwidth required in order to deliver them.

We do live in interesting times, indeed. The rise in relevance of streaming video was already on its way, but the pandemic triggered the proverbial ‘turbo’ button. Despite the litany of challenges we face as a result of COVID-19, the shot in the arm for video, and those who produce it, has been a welcome byproduct of the pandemic. And fear not, we are still moving toward the really remarkable item I sought to call your attention to.

Setting the Stage

In order for your favorite show, college football game or NBA contest to be captured, processed and delivered to your smartphone, living room TV or screen of choice – it begins its journey by passing through an appliance. Most would call this a computer of some form or fashion. For those of us in the industry, these ‘pizza’ box encoders have largely looked and performed the same for the better part of the past 15 years. Sure, we’ve seen variations that leverage GPUs to enhance the processing power, some platform specific half form factor appliances – but nothing that really changed the game. For many years, the various architects, product leads and engineers I’ve worked with have asked for more – and less. They want more powerful processing to meet the demands of today’s resolutions and to prepare for tomorrow’s. Today this usually means HD to 4K, and a general spread of a 6-8 rendition ladder of output streams. But they want to save valuable power and cooling resources in their facilities – meaning smaller and more nimble technology and appliances. This group has been asking for more capability in smaller form factors for years. It wasn’t that long ago that we needed two ‘pizza boxes’ to do this same process – and only in HD. Today it clearly can be done with one unit. Now we get to the remarkable part.

No More Compromises

When building video services recently, one generally had to make decisions which often involved compromise. Low latency? 4K? These questions and others would lead to potential sacrifice and potential ‘horse trading’ But what if one could now have the power to process the aforementioned stream ladder, up to and including 4K, consume less power and have a form factor roughly eight times less than before?

And a price point under $2k? That is remarkable – the Videon Versastreamer. 4k under $2k. Really worth a look – and a second, at that. When getting the signal out of the broadcast operations center or television station with pristine quality is the highest priority, this device is a game changer. Need to reach up to three RTMP publishing destinations? Check. Require forward error correction using protocols like SRT? Check. These features and functionality are remarkable.

As someone who has been working in the proverbial OTT video coal mine for many years, I am really impressed with this innovation. I think you will be, too.

 

Authored by Matt Smith

Matt Smith is a recognized digital media industry evangelist and thought leader, having spoken at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, IBC, and various other shows.  He’s served in a variety of roles in the industry during his career, with stops at Comcast, Brightcove Anvato, Envivio and others

Red5 Pro’s Real Time Streaming Platform and Videon’s VersaStreamer 4K Encoder Enable a 200ms Real Time Latency End to End Workflow Solution

JAMAICA PLAIN, Ma. and STATE COLLEGE, Pa.   — May 29, 2020 — Red5 Pro and Videon today announce a WebRTC workflow using Red5 Pro Real Time Streaming platform in conjunction with Videon’s VersaStreamer 4K Encoder resulting in a  200ms end to end latency. The workflow addresses the rapidly growing need for high-quality streaming that benefits from real-time latency. 

Users are in need of an easy to use, real-time latency workflow that mitigates the often confusing and cumbersome nature of livestreaming setups.Red5 Pro and Videon have worked together to ensure both ease of deployment and confidence in results so that the end-user can confidently set up the workflow and quickly deploy it for their unique use case. 

The workflow includes optimized settings for both the Red5 Pro Real Time Streaming Platform and Videon VersaStreamer 4K to ensure the lowest possible latency implementations. What Red5 Pro and Videon have enabled will allow users to achieve real-time latency which enables a wide range of new applications including remote learning, gaming, auctions, remote production, enterprise applications, government applications, and literally any application that benefits from real-time latency. Not only is the combined workflow of Videon and Red5 Pro fast, but it is also inexpensive and can be applied to anywhere from small to massive concurrent viewer applications 

The power of this workflow speaks for itself. On the playback side, Videon used the Red5 Pro Web Player. Upon testing the workflow, Videon consistently measured under 200ms of glass to glass latency. Videon even went as far as to test with varied network conditions and, in the worst case, saw <400ms of latency. 

“Videon has enjoyed a great relationship with Chris Allen and the Red5 Pro team. We are pleased to announce this partnership and the availability of a real-time latency end-to-end workflow. Ensuring customers can experience this level of connection is especially important in these times when video streaming is becoming more and more the norm,” said Todd Erdley, CEO of Videon. “The combination of Videon’s VersaStreamer 4k encoder with Red5 Pro’s Real Time Streaming Platform brings a level of performance to the market at a cost and ease of use that has not yet been seen. The solution is sure to have a strong impact enabling a wide range of new applications.“

“We are excited about the possibilities the VersaStream 4K encoder introduces when combined with our platform. Many of our customers are in need of a fair priced and easy to configure encoder to plug into their equipment and start streaming to a Red5 Pro cluster. With this partnership our customers can maintain sub 500 ms latency and distribute that high quality stream to millions,” said Chris Allen, CEO and Co-Founder of Red5 Pro. 

 

About Red5 Pro

Red5 Pro is driven by a passion for real-time latency, live video-streaming applications which has guided us from the very beginning. In 2005 we reverse engineered RTMP and created the open-source Red5 server. After integrating with WebRTC and adding a mobile SDK, the Red Pro solution is fully scalable to millions of concurrent connections with under 500 milliseconds of latency. Our tools empower developers to easily and seamlessly integrate audio, video and data streaming into their own apps.

 

About Videon

Videon is a world-leading provider of ultra-low latency, high-resolution, high-performance streaming solutions that enable users in the prosumer, pro-AV, and broadcast markets to simplify streaming workflows and reduce costs. Videon has also partnered with top software brands around the globe to incorporate its technology solutions into millions of devices. Videon actively supports its employees, its community, and the environment by emphasizing the belief that employees should care more about others than they do about themselves. More information is available at https://videon-central.com.

4 Steps to Configure Videon’s Live Streaming Encoder with Low Latency Video

Low latency remains a key component in any live streaming application. Video chat, distance learning, live auctions, event broadcasts and many more use case cases all need fast stream delivery to ensure a positive user experience. The challenge lies in providing low latency that is consistent and scalable. Complicating matters further, is the fact that live streaming video is itself nuanced with many subtle yet impactful considerations that must be taken into account.

In order to simplify this process and cut through any confusion, Red5 Pro and Videon have joined forces to bring real-time latency live video streaming to the mass market. To accomplish this, they make use of Videon’s hardware based live streaming encoder to perform the video streaming. This document outlines the process for setting up a low latency workflow and displays the impressive ultra-low latency results achievable when pairing Videon encoders with Red5 Pro’s cloud-based streaming platform.

This step-by-step guide walks you through implementing a WebRTC based ultra low latency workflow using Videon’s VersaStreamer 4K encoder and Red5 Pro’s Real-Time Streaming platform. We will then measure the glass-to-glass latency of the configured workflow.

Workflow Diagram

The latency consistently clocks at 400-500ms using either single instance or Red5 Pro Clustering technology and Stream Manager. The lowest latency during this testing was clocked at 147.5ms

Along with our partners at Videon, Red5 Pro recommends using our cloud-based streaming software and Videon’s VersaStreamer 4K for applications that require real-time interaction between viewers and broadcasters.

 

Workflow Details

All the tests and the results shown in this post were run with encode and decode endpoints located in Videon’s lab located in State College, PA.

 

Videon VersaStreamer 4K

  • Software Version:  6.3.0.61.3

 

Red5 Pro Server

  • Software Version:  5.7.11.b376-release
  • Configured in Amazon Web Services EC2
  • Region: us-east-1
  • Instance type: c5.xlarge
  • OS:  Ubuntu 16.04.6 LTS

 

Audio/Video Source

ASUS Chromebox

  • Google Chrome OS
  • Version 76.0.3809.136 (Official Build) (64-bit)
  • Video:  1920x1080P60
  • Audio:  HDMI Embedded (Spotify music)

Gefen 1:3 HDMI Splitter

  • Model:  repeater

 

Players

Red5 Pro HTML Publisher and Subscriber SDK

  • Version:  5.7.0
  • https://github.com/red5pro/streaming-html5

 

Setup Instructions

First, as illustrated by the block diagram above, connect the hardware. Once the hardware is configured, you can then install and setup the Red5 Pro instance or cluster as per the provided Red5 Pro instructions. Please note that all defaults should be enabled.

Next, you will need to setup the Videon VersaStreamer 4K by opening “Encoder Settings: in the Videon VersaStreamer 4K web UI. Make sure that the following settings are selected in order to provide the best performance.

  • Encoding Mode > Constant Bitrate
  • Video Encoding > H.264 (AVC)
  • H.264 Profile > Baseline Profile (note that you must use baseline due to WebRTC based decoder limitations for higher profiles in browsers)

All other settings may be optimized for your specific workflow and deployment conditions. The following image shows all the settings used for the tests that were performed in order to produce the results stated in this post.

You will now need to turn on RTMP streaming to the Red5 Pro server in Output Settings by selecting the RTMP 1 tab:

  1. Turn RTMP Output 1 “On”
  2. From the dropdown menu, select “Generic RTMP”
  3. Enter the following in the URL entry box:
  4. rtmp://<Red5 Pro Server>:1935/live/stream
  5. Replace <Red5 Pro Server> with the AWS EC2 instance that has your Red5 Pro server configured and running along with the configured port.

You can now play the stream in the Red5 Pro web player by following the next 2 steps:

  1. In the browser’s address bar, enter this URL: http://<Red5 Pro Server>:5080/live/viewer.jsp?host=<Red5 Pro Server IP>&stream=stream#. Note that if you want to use this in production you will want to enable SSL and use a fully qualified domain and https. More info on installing SSL certificates can be found in our documentation.
  2. Replace <Red5 Pro Server> with the hostname of the AWS EC2 instance used in Output Settings of Step 3b from the section above and <Red5 Pro Server IP> with the external IP address of the same instance.

It should be noted that j in Red5 Pro’s upcoming 7.0 release, SRT can be used instead of RTMP for even better latency and performance.

 

Test Measurements

Once you have followed these instructions and conducted a test according to the block diagram, the speed, and power of the combination of Red5 Pro and Videon will become readily apparent.

Please make sure to use a video source that has a running timer. Considering that we measure our latency in milliseconds rather than seconds, you will need to display down to milliseconds in order to properly measure the low latency output. As our partners at Videon did, you can use the Red5 Pro Web Player and monitor output for playback.

Samples were measured by simultaneously taking a picture of the preview monitor screen and the Red5 Pro web player at the same time.  By comparing the time codes, you can see the latency from when the local video source captures the video to when the video is encoded by Videon’s VersaStreamer 4k and streamed through Red5 Pro’s cloud infrastructure. The following pictures show the workflow at various times after beginning the stream. Videon consistently measured under 200ms of glass to glass latency. Despite the fact that adverse network conditions can increase latency, even setups in poor networks measured <500ms of latency.

 

Recommendations

For real-time latency workflows, the Red5 Pro software and the Videon VersaStreamer 4K is an optimal pairing. With sub 500ms of latency, smooth and natural interactions can be achieved by using Red5 Pro’s cloud-based streaming platform and Videon’s VersaStreamer 4K. This powerful combination enables viewers and streamers to interact in real-time for a completely interactive experience.  Using the Videon live streaming encoder and the Red5 Pro software, is the best way to provide low latency video streaming to a broader audience.

Want to learn more? Get in touch. Send an email to info@red5pro.com or schedule a call directly.

Rexcel and Videon Livestream Taipei Opera to Over 50,000 Viewers

Rexcel Nippon Launches Simple LaaS (Livestream-as-a-Service) using Videon’s EdgeCaster to Successfully Livestream Historic Taipei Opera to Over 50,000 Viewers Worldwide in a Month

Rexcel’s Simple LaaS streamlined setup that lowers the barrier for event organizers to implement professional-grade livestreams. Easy, Economical, and Efficient. 

Tokyo, Japan – May 11, 2020 -Rexcel Nippon announces the formal launch of Rexcel Simple LaaS (Livestream-as-a-Service) which is based on Videon’s award-winning EdgeCaster. Simple LaaS’s introductory event resulted in an impact that will long be remembered. The Taipei Opera’s historic performance, a Taiwan premiere of “El amor brujo” (ballet) and “La vida breve” (opera) by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla was to be held at Taiwan’s national opera house (the Taichung National Theater)  on March 21, 2020. The event was cancelled due to Covid-19, but not before the performers were allowed to use the opera house to do a dress rehearsal the night before. Ren Egawa, CEO of Rexcel, realized Simple LaaS could enable a world-wide audience first time viewing of an event featuring multi-streaming of four live feeds from four different cameras. The problem was Rexcel members were not allowed in the theatre to set up the system due to Covid-19 restrictions. 

 

The Rexcel team provisioned Simple LaaS and handed it to the theatre workers who had never set up a livestreaming system. Thanks to the ease of use with Simple LaaS, the system, using Videon’s EdgeCaster video encoder, gave a high-quality performance and worked seamlessly with other equipment in the opera house such as YouTube, Smartphones, PC’s, and TV’s. All pieces of the setup worked without fail even though the live performance was the first time the components had been used together to livestream.

 

Amidst a global pandemic, Rexcel enabled the opera to be viewed, live, by over 10,000 remote viewers. The performance has since amassed more than 50,000 views from people around the world after a month. Livestreaming a Taiwanese premiere of a Spanish music masterpiece brought in many viewers from Spain, as well as France, Italy, various countries in Latin America, and much more, to watch a performance held in Taiwan which, had it been performed live, would only have been viewed by several thousand people.

 

Dau-Hsiong Tseng, Taipei Opera’s Music Director stated, “I told everyone in Taiwan this: Rexcel from Japan and Videon from American gave our performance two wings to fly. And fly it did… landed in Spain’s Andalusia where Manuel de Falla was born and caught the attention of an Andalusia conductor who is one of the principal conductors at the Ballet Nacional de España and a proponent for Falla’s music. Thanks to this livestream, he was able to witness our production’s serious approach and respect for Falla’s masterpieces even though Taiwan is thousands of miles away from Andalusia, and naturally we became good friends. Livestream brought miracles beyond imagination. Thank you Rexcel. Thank you Videon.“ 

 

Implementing a high-quality livestream was challenging due to its perceived complexity and costly investment. Rexel LaaS is changing that dynamic. In the past, event organizers might have forgone a livestreaming opportunity or choose to use a smartphone to stream an event. While smartphones are easy to use and accessible solutions, they deliver a lower quality stream which directly impacts the audience’s experience.

 

“Rexcel was able to solve a huge problem amidst the  pandemic and enabled The Taipei Opera staff to successfully livestream the opera to thousands of viewers. Our EdgeCaster encoder paired with Rexcel Simple LaaS produced a high-quality, experiential livestream that was not only affordable, but also was able to be watched by tens of  thousands of people who may not have  had the opportunity to attend such an event,“ said Todd Erdley, CEO and Founder of Videon. “Rexcel did more than helping the opera be livestreamed – they touched the lives of people around the world and brought them joy in a time of great uncertainty. Rexcel cared more about others than themselves and, for that, we at Videon are grateful.”

 

Rexcel Simple LaaS with Videon’s EdgeCaster inside offers an unprecedented simple setup that reduces the complexity and cost associated with high-quality livestreaming. Rexcel Simple LaaS pre-configures and pre-tests multiple EdgeCaster encoders matched to the number of camera feeds that the organizer plans to use to multi-stream to a YouTube account. This setup allows each remote audience member to select their preferred camera view during the live event. 

 

Setting up EdgeCaster is as easy as shipping the unit to the event site, connecting it to the Internet at one end, and pairing it with a quality 4K or HD video camera at the other end. Rexcel Simple LaaS then monitors and controls the streaming quality remotely throughout the duration of the event. Rexcel Simple LaaS is capable of supporting events throughout the world where YouTube, Facebook or other supported content delivery networks are accessible.

 

Ren Egawa, Rexcel’s CEO stated, “We have been providing cutting-edge livestream technologies and solutions to broadcasters and telcos, and we recognize that it is the event organizer who creates an event. These organizers are experts when it comes to engaging live “on-site audiences”. Now with the simplicity of Rexcel’s LaaS, everyone can be an expert in engaging live, “remote audiences”.  Rexcel LaaS was designed with three E’s in mind; Easy, Economical, and Efficient to allow organizers anywhere in the world to offer professional-grade livestream experiences to their remote audience. We thank Videon for its superb EdgeCaster and Taipei Opera for offering us the opportunity to prove its effectiveness and together made the history of conducting the first multi-stream from a theater environment.”

 

Highlight of This Livestreams

“Interlude and Dance” from “La vida breve”

[full stage] https://youtu.be/XnYSl706LFc?t=5729

[close up] https://youtu.be/dpvvRr_YRoA?t=5837

 

“Ritual Fire Dance” from “El amor brujo”

[full stage] https://youtu.be/XnYSl706LFc?t=1141

[close up] https://youtu.be/dpvvRr_YRoA?t=1249

 

About Taipei Opera Theatre

Taipei Opera Theatre was founded in 1971 and has since premiered more than 40 western operas in Taiwan. The company is led by Dau-Hsiong Tseng, a recipient of 2011 National Culture and Arts Award, and the founder and music director of the company.

 

Taipei Opera is distinguished by its reputation for producing professional operas at highest artistic excellence. Its fully staged productions are usually accompanied by Taiwan’s national orchestra or Taipei’s city orchestra. The opera company has been revered for its commitment in opera education by introducing Taiwan residents to not only well-known but also less-performed opera masterpieces. Traditionally the opera company has served opportunities for talented Taiwanese opera singers to experience leading roles, allowing many of whom to continue to perform for the rest of their careers. More information is available at https://www.facebook.com/Taipeioperatheater

 

About Videon Central Inc.

Videon is a world-leading provider of ultra-low latency, high-resolution, high-performance streaming solutions that enable users in the prosumer, pro-AV, and broadcast markets to simplify streaming workflows and reduce costs. Videon has also partnered with top software brands around the globe to incorporate its technology solutions into millions of devices. Videon actively supports its employees, its community, and the environment by emphasizing the belief that employees should care more about others than they do about themselves. More information is available at https://videon-central.com.

 

About Rexcel NIPPON Co., Ltd.

Rexcel is a leading systems integrator in Japan, designing and offering both Video and IoT solutions to nationwide broadcasters, global telecommunications service providers and electronics brands. Rexcel is led by a uniquely diverse group of experts in marketing, arts & culture, strategic planning, project management, engineering and manufacturing with partners in the US, Japan and Taiwan. 

Hailed as an innovation driver in Japan, Rexcel is recognized by major corporations for helping drive from inside an idea out to a commercial product that is new and relevant, with record implementation speed. More information is available at http://www.rexcelgroup.com/jp.

re:Invent 2019 Recap: The Year of AI/ML

By Tristan Avelis, Product Manager

re:Invent may have happened over a month ago, but what better time to touch on Amazon Web Service’s inaugural conference and our key takeaways than at the start of the new year… Or halfway through the second month of the new year…

re:Invent was an amazing way to see just how far-reaching AWS is in terms of not only available services but also the huge variety of users that they have. Odds are, if you’re doing anything on the internet, AWS is somewhere either at the forefront or behind the scenes. 

I went into re:Invent intentionally seeking out AI/ML sessions. I wanted to understand how AI/ML can be useful to live video streaming, but also to various applications such as satellite imaging and utility surveys. I also wanted to learn a lot about how AWS views live video productions and the approaches that they take to ensuring a successful live event. What I learned has greatly improved my understanding of how to enable our customers to succeed when setting up a live event and how our product can help with that.

  • MediaConnect enables the high-quality distribution of mezzanine-type content. MediaConnect is a great ingest point that allows delivery to whatever workflow can be connected easily to any other AWS service while still being flexible enough to fulfill various workflows. 
  • Resiliency in live video workflows
    • Resiliency = Redundancy + Failover. Having resiliency allows the viewer to have uninterrupted playback, even if you have failures in your workflow. 
    • Simple Resiliency = Duplication + Manual Failover. 
    • Better Resiliency = Cloud-Native Redundancy with autoscale and Self-Healing + Auto-Failover.
  • Performing audio transcriptions using Machine Learning is up and coming, if not already in use in a number of institutions (think medical field to reduce charting and data entry workload on doctors). In support of Machine Learning, AWS Sagemaker Studio was released and allows anyone to develop Machine Learning applications with a full set of pre-made, easy to use tools.
  • Users should think about their live streaming workflow from the ground up and do it right from the start. The main pillars of the AWS Well-Architected Framework are Reliability, Performance, Security, Cost Efficiency, and Operational Excellence.
  • AWS Rekognition: AI/ML is used for image and video analysis to help AWS customers apply their custom label sets to a huge variety of applications. 
    • The main demonstration was using custom labels for finding specific moments in video content (ex: Interviews where a golden record was in the frame). Having custom label sets that users can train the AI/ML systems to use greatly reduces the manual effort needed to find and process video content. 
    • Because AI/ML can process much faster, valuable data is provided in real-time. 

Biggest Takeaway: AI/ML is huge and AWS is driving it full-throttle. The number of AI/ML tools and services AWS is going to provide in the next two to three years is going to grow drastically.

Tip for Future Attendees of re:Invent: Take the time to plan your day in advance. I ended up running from place to place to try and see everything rather than planning an efficient route between the various sessions. There is just so much to see. 

 

About the Author
Tristan Avelis is Videon’s Product Manager responsible for translating input from the live streaming market, individual users, and tech industry leaders into implemented product features that meet the needs of a wide variety of live streaming applications.

 

Near-Instant Volleyball Streaming with the Videon EdgeCaster

Videon’s EdgeCaster made viewing the FIVB Volleyball World Cup easy

The women’s tournament of the 2019 FIVB World Cup was streamed live from Yokohama, Japan last September and drew an estimated audience of more than 30,000 peak concurrent viewers and over 500,000 unique viewers. The event provided a perfect showcase for Videon’s EdgeCaster ultra-low latency (ULL) encoder working in a live streaming video workflow using Amazon Web Services (AWS).  

As the international governing body for all forms of volleyball, the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) stages the World Cup every four years as a qualifying event for the Olympic Games. For the 2019 World Cup, the FIVB wanted to apply ULL to optimize the viewer experience and create a parallel OTT workflow for the linear television broadcast of the tournament. FIVB’s chosen solution was ULL-CMAF technology powered by Fuji Television and AWS, leveraging an EdgeCaster HEVC/H.264 video encoder.

The EdgeCaster was at the heart of the FIVB ULL video streaming workflow.

The low-power, small-form-factor Edgecaster provided direct output of HLS/DASH CMAF-formatted signals (EdgeCaster also enables traditional RTMP workflows along with many other common streaming formats). Through AWS Direct Connect, the HLS/DASH/CMAF output was ingested by AWS Elemental MediaStore, which was the origin point for delivery by AWS CloudFront to end-user devices worldwide.

The results speak for themselves.

Volleyball fans were able to watch FIVB World Cup matches using the iOS, Android, or HTML player of their choice with a stable latency of only three seconds while sharing the experience on social media. The FIVB provided multiple synchronized camera angles to create an immersive experience, enabling viewers to watch multiple screens and follow featured-player chase cameras. Wide-angle and ceiling views further enhanced the traditional broadcast experience.

It’s not just for sports.

While a live sporting event is an ideal application for ULL workflows, it’s not the only one. Imagine corporate town halls with interactivity between a worldwide workforce and the presenter or any event that can leverage social video engagement to create a deeper connection with viewers. The use of standards-based, scalable technology allows for this wide range of live events to achieve distribution and engagement never before realized. 

With EdgeCaster, all types of organizations can take full advantage of the many opportunities that arise when live streaming is truly live.

 

IABM Special Report: Publish – Bringing home the bacon

This article originated from the IABM website

By Roger Thornton, Copy Cruncher at IABM

The Publish block of the BaM Content Chain® came out as one of the most important in the recent IABM Buying Trends survey, with 57% finding it to be the most important in terms of investment. Unsurprisingly, this is reflected in buyers’ top media technology purchasing priority being multi-platform content delivery. Even though BIY is on the rise across many content chain blocks, 90% of broadcasters have no plans for this in their Publish operations. With most technology buyers looking to increase their technology investment by up to 10% in the coming year, the future looks bright for media technology suppliers in Publish over the coming months and years.

For this issue’s feature article, we asked IABM members with products and services in Publish to assess its current drivers, opportunities and challenges, and to take out their crystal balls to look into the future – including the potential impact of 5G. As Deluxe’s Sr. Director Product Solutions, Nav Khangura, says, “Publish is arguably the most important stage of the content supply chain. Satisfying the demands of an increasingly demanding audience is the most important factor in keeping you in the race.”

Despite some heavy editing, this is a long article –for which I make no apology. 13 IABM member companies contributed to it and each has a different opinion and approach to the market. It will be an illuminating read for everyone involved in delivering content in our rapidly changing M&E landscape.

What are the current market drivers?

Changing viewing habits and demands were top of most people’s list. “The main drivers of change in Publish all stem back to one key theme: the ongoing change in consumer viewing habits,” Deluxe’s Nav Khangura says. “Whether it’s the volume increase of original content, the explosion of localization needs, the evolution of higher quality formats or the continual increase in the number of digital platforms, all drivers lead back to meeting consumers’ viewing demands and the endeavor to have a competitive edge in the race to win consumers’ viewing time. As original content grows year over year, so does the need for instant scalability and intelligent automation to transform, package, distribute and publish.”

Consumers in charge

Shawn Carnahan, CTO at Telestream, also sees consumers driving change – and so Telestream too. “We have been witnessing some basic changes in consumer behavior for some time. From their perspective, consumers are seeking to transition to more flexible ways to consume content. The MSO/Aggregator model is steadily being replaced by direct relationships between content creators and their consumers. This is fragmenting the market. Then there is a large group of linear TV broadcasters that are seeking to replicate their channels in OTT.

“These factors are definitely driving the technology companies to support these moves. At Telestream, it is driving our roadmap, and in conversations with colleagues at Harmonic and other companies, they say the same thing. Our collective challenge is how to build more cost-effective, flexible and elastic origins,” Carnahan adds.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, Harmonic’s Director Playout Solutions, Andy Warman, agrees, and suggests the route to success. “We see three main drivers shaping buying decisions: growing demand for OTT content delivery, adoption of media over IP technologies and the move
to cloud-based technologies. This underscores the market’s desire to transition toward software-based solutions and away from an appliance-based approach. It provides customers with flexibility and the ability to quickly adapt to changing market needs.”

Richard Heitmann, VP General Manager at IBM Aspera, also sees the cloud providing the current answer and looks to 5G’s potential future impact. “Cloud has become an acceptable option for traditional publishing workflows with several channels deploying “playout origination” from the cloud as commodity editing in the cloud becomes more prevalent. In the coming years, more and more production workflows and traditional broadcast editing will move to the cloud. In the US, the reallocation of C-band satellite frequencies to mobile carriers is driving traditional network distribution from satellite to terrestrial carriers. Furthermore, with the advent of 5G (though widespread consumer usage is likely several years out), edge compute will offer consumers tremendous opportunity for customized consumption from ads to long-form content,” Heitmann says.

Choice of viewing devices

Nick Fielibert, CTO, Video Network at Synamedia, identifies the profusion of different viewing devices as driving the market: “The main drivers are devices (smart TV, media players, tablets, smartphones, PCs etc.) that can consume video over the internet. Content providers see the audiences growing if they publish content outside the traditional model of a Service Provider (SP) as a content aggregator. For this reason, all Content Providers (CP) create a direct connection to consumers with an OTT service. Because of the abundance of devices, SPs also see a need to provide the aggregated experience to their subscribers.”

Rohde & Schwarz Strategic Marketing Manager, Tim Felstead, also sees the change in consumer habits as a driver, but adds a second, as well as looking forward to 5G: “Allowing the possibilities of technology development to improve and further integrate the variety of processes required to produce content for consumers. These include integrating and virtualizing playout solutions including great graphics capability, and automating content generation for VOD file delivery and promo versioning to offer two direct examples. And there is also the increasing value of live events while at the same time the opportunity presented by highly capable hand-held mobile devices and associated networks. Our research, product development and trial deployments driven by our transmitter group, along with many key industry partners, is enabling the tight integration of telecommunications (wireless and mobile broadband) and linear broadcast delivery through the 5G Broadcast standards,” Felstead adds.

As a service provider at the sharp end of Publish, Red Bee Media is well placed to see where the market is heading –and what is required of the technology. “It’s about multi-platform more than ever. In this rapidly evolving business and tech landscape, it’s crucial to be able to get content to the right place/right time/looking perfect. Agility, control, visibility,” sums up Steve Russell, Head of OTT & Media Management at Red Bee Media.

Quality of experience

For Antonio Corrado, CEO, Mainstreaming, it’s back to the consumer – and QoE. “For us, the main driver of change is the consumer demand in regard to quality. Traditionally, streaming over the internet has been a risk as companies could only guarantee a ‘Best Effort’ service when streaming content for broadcasters or content owners, which is dramatically different from what they were used to with satellite providers where they used to purchase services based on quality of experience. The delivery network providers whose technology and services are built specifically for video and focused on enabling the future of streaming over the internet will be the providers that are able to guarantee quality of experience to broadcasters and content owners based on QoS as they go direct-to-consumer,” Corrado asserts.

Broadpeak VP Marketing, Nivedita Nouvel, concurs with Corrado: “More and more, content providers are driving the delivery of valuable content, both live and VOD. This has an impact on the technologies required by network operators to serve their subscribers with the best QoE possible.”

Joined up linear to VOD workflows

“The drive to adopt IP technology and – beyond that – to virtualise continues to drive interest and investment in linear playout technology,”
says Pebble Beach Systems Marketing Manager, Alison Pavitt. “From a Pebble perspective, several years after the first deployment of our ‘Orca’ virtualised playout solution there are now multiple deployments in diverse applications, including a full cross-continent business continuity service, and a large scale multi-channel deployment which broadcasts in multiple languages requiring precise synchronisation and comprehensive audio playout rules.

“The buzz around virtualised playout keeps growing. However, questions remain about the economic, logistical and technical benefits to the
end user, and judging by the high volume of on-premise playout solutions that we continue to install and commission – whether IP or baseband – it’s clear that this path is not one that every broadcaster or media company is ready to follow,” Pavitt continues.

“The adoption of new technologies and standards is not an end in itself. In our experience the key drivers of change continue to be the need for greater efficiency, and for ‘joined-up’ linear to VOD workflows. The fact is that linear playout continues to be where broadcasters make their money, and with pressure for them to invest and expand to other platforms to help them compete with on-demand and OTT services, any efficiencies that can be gained in their playout workflows and infrastructure become very attractive,” Pavitt adds.

 

OTT or linear – where’s the investment going?

We asked our respondents where they are seeing the market moving in terms of what their customers are asking for. While OTT is getting a lot of attention, it’s clear that linear isn’t going anywhere soon, and an integrated, hybrid approach is often preferred.

A hybrid world

Videon CEO, Todd Erdley, sees OTT first as the ultimate destination. “Videon is seeing a hybrid approach to the market where there will continue to be linear provided in parallel to OTT. Our focus is supporting low latency live events, particularly sports. In this area, the focus is on OTT being delivered with the same delay as linear. That is step one where the linear experience and OTT experience are effectively the same. With advances in areas like eSports and other sports gamification including better, more and more we are seeing providers consider much more focus on the OTT delivery. Videon anticipates a highly differentiated workflow where OTT provides 2nd screen users that are evolving to have 2nd screen as 1st screen be a much more interactive, engaged production. This necessitates a transition to OTT-first,” Erdley says.

“We believe that there will be a mixed environment for some decades to come,” says Rohde & Schwarz’s Tim Felstead. “While there has been a relentless trend towards OTT (including VOD and streaming live services) over recent years, linear terrestrial delivery remains a powerful and often still primary market. The key for our customers is to ensure that solutions they build to service their customers serve all of the publish mechanisms at once in the most efficient manner possible. We believe workflow automation, integration, virtualization and great file or signal processing capabilities hold the keys to this expectation. In summary, no, it is not OTT first, it is everything first.”

Red Bee Media’s Steve Russell again provides the view from the output end. “Our customers like the fact we span across these domains. It’s about an integrated business plan that leverages all distribution models. It’s a mistake to see these as separate domains. It’s a continuum of distribution and monetization possibilities. And one channel supports the other,” he asserts.

Telestream sees the focus as very much on OTT, perhaps reflecting its broadcaster customer base. “Looking at one of our core markets – owner operated linear multi-channel broadcasters – they are almost exclusively focused on OTT build out,” says Shawn Carnahan. “Currently, virtually everything we are doing with them is in response to the challenge of how to create an OTT network that is on a par with linear television in terms of quality of service and experience. The transition from OTT being a novelty to having the same consumer expectations as the linear TV experience in your living room is massive.”

“Broadpeak’s customers are mostly Pay-TV operators, and we find that they are investing more in OTT technologies like ABR streaming rather than legacy cable or IPTV streaming. The same is true for satellite operators. They need to address multiscreen and are hence moving to ABR formats,” Nivedita Nouvel explains.

Linear lives on

“OTT is certainly growing in prominence, with customers increasingly looking to take on the FAANG companies via their own Direct-to-Consumer offerings,” adds Deluxe Director of Strategic Planning, Ian Robbins. “For traditional linear players, their budgets are still heavily focused on their core offerings, but naturally they are having to move more focus towards their digital platforms as a means to diversify their revenue streams and compete in the digital space. That said, linear is still an important medium for the big players and something we envisage continuing to carry a significant level of focus for the foreseeable future.

“It is now crucial that vendors enable their customers with a technology platform to seamlessly orchestrate fulfilment for both initiatives via the same tool set. This inflection point led Deluxe to create the One platform. Now more than ever, Deluxe is positioned to meet high-volume processing requirements for both linear and OTT fulfilment as well as having the ability to support customers seeking a D2C solution,” Robbins adds.

For Mainstreaming too, OTT is the prime focus.

“All of our customers are transitioning toward OTT or adopting an OTT-first approach, as we are a streaming service provider focused on delivering video over the internet. As the OTT industry continues to grow exponentially year over year and with the now direct-to-consumer approach many content owners or traditional broadcasters are taking, this is exactly where we see the market heading,” says Antonio Corrado.

Size matters

For Harmonic, customer priorities depend on the size and type of organization. “On the production side, we are seeing continued growth in the adoption of OTT,” says Andy Warman. “And this appears to be a priority for larger organizations, though linear channels still receive significant ongoing investment. In small- to mid-size organizations there is relatively little movement on the adoption of OTT, with linear being the focus. On the distribution side, we see more investment in OTT than classical broadcast.”

For IBM Aspera’s Richard Heitmann, while OTT is the overriding trend, cloud-based distribution is not yet feasible. “There is a massive transition to OTT networks – from the largest of content owners to the smallest of niche creators. However, with the reallocation of C-Band spectrum, traditional linear networks –particularly ‘digital’ and secondary sub channels –are testing transmission over internet. OTT first relies on on-premises, followed by data center hosted and CDNs due to the favorable financial models. While linear channel migration may lead to a surge in budgetary spend, cloud-based distribution is not yet financially viable due to the fees which come from moving content out of public cloud providers. Broadcasters and OTT providers will still face trade-offs between long term capital investments and the high operating costs associated with cloud-based distribution. Being more economical, especially when launching pilot content/channels, will make cloud the preferred platform. Cloud usage is even more logical as more facilities try to move their operations off site for economic, scale and update incentives,” Heitmann explains.

 

Will more broadcasters internalize OTT capabilities as Disney has done – or will they continue to outsource them?

The bigger operators in this market want to control the viewer experience and build their brands,” says Telestream’s Shawn Carnahan. “Today, the technology is not experimental: there has been a shrinking in the options for how they distribute content across all the consumer platforms that they need to cover. It’s not as much of a mystery for them as it once was. So, I believe that many of the bigger players will build their OTT channels out internally, whereas earlier, the strategy was to wholesale outsource the challenge. This internalization process will include the entire workflow including App development for these platforms. This will enable them to better control consumer behavior, consumer experience, monetization and analytics of the process.

“At Telestream, the development of our iQ portfolio is driven by the problems that are unique to the delivery of media over IP,” Carnahan continues. “This continues to be true for OTT delivery – it’s just a different set of problems. Our customers seek control over this, and also to control costs. When OTT was an experimental novelty, organizations weren’t staking revenue on these new channels. But as they transition to OTT becoming the core business, then bottom-line profitability is directly related to costs. For Telestream, this speaks to the level of integration we have within our customers’ workflows. As a technology vendor, we can do so much more depending on the amount of the whole process that we’re participating in. OTT is not as componentized as television was in the past. We must have a broader portfolio of system solutions. We’re not there yet, but strategically it is where we are heading.”

Core competencies

For Rohde & Schwarz, it’s all about the old maxim of sticking to core competencies. “We envisage some customers making some elements in-house,” says Tim Felstead. “The determining factor will be in answer to the question ‘what is core to their businesses?’. Put another way, when is it imperative to do in-house developments and when is it not? Undertaking a technology development program while at the same time offering a media service to consumers can increase financial and operational risks if not executed with great care. In this case we see some in-sourcing by our customers, and to enter development operations with them, but these are always case by case and often conclude with the realization that some core competences can be bought in from technology suppliers with far less risk than BIY (build it yourself).”

Harmonic sees different requirements depending on the scale of the organization, and like Rohde & Schwarz, sees concentration on core business as a key consideration too. “We have seen a trend with AT&T buying Quickplay, and most recently Disney buying BAMTech. They are choosing to develop in-house technology for their OTT delivery platform and, as such, create a vertical integration strategy,” Andy Warman explains. “This is a trend for large tier-1 distributors that has some impact on Harmonic’s business, but we also anticipate they will be buying solutions from vendors like Harmonic.

“Other organizations are doing the exact opposite: they are launching their OTT services with in-house technology and buying certain components of their platform from vendors like Harmonic when they need an upgrade. They want to focus all their efforts on creating the best content and viewer apps, which are key to making their OTT services a success and providing a significant differentiation in terms of QoE. They believe that all of the internal R&D efforts spent to keep their platform up to date with the latest technologies and maintained was ultimately too complex and expensive,” Warman adds.

IBM Aspera’s Richard Heitmann also sees the key being in delivering the services. “‘Build it or buy it’ has been an expansion mantra for years. There will continue to be a few dominant players in OTT origination and management services, and they will be used as outsourced providers for smaller services. Other big networks/content owners are poised to launch their own services and will likely also offer those services to other parties. Regardless of who is originating, managing or distributing the content, we expect the use of IBM Aspera for file and stream transport of OTT content to continue to grow.”

For Mainstreaming, bringing the expertise in house is the way to go – and it has advantages for Mainstreaming too, as Antonio Corrado explains: “We think that this is smart as it will allow them to control the technology flow on their platforms with an experienced team instead of starting from scratch. It helps us as we will be able to now partner directly with broadcasters instead of having to go through third parties which may speed up the process for adoption of technology.”

For Red Bee Media’s Steve Russell, it depends on scale. “The technology is really a hygiene factor, it just has to work, at scale and across all platforms. Perhaps a handful of truly global players can own and operate the full stack. Our view is that it makes more sense to partner with a Service provider that is laser-focused on getting the platform right, so that our customers can focus on their brands, their narratives, their fans, viewers and their business model.”

Synamedia’s Nick Fielibert agrees: “Some big media companies can afford to do their development in-house. They will probably keep doing this until they feel they can buy solutions on the open market that fit their needs. We see this happening as vendors like ourselves meet media companies’ specific requirements.”

Riding both horses

Deluxe sees advantages in both approaches – and feels it is set up to benefit whichever route the customer chooses. “As the volume of content continues to grow, we see customers opting for a range of models, from those that continue to wish to operate via a 3rd party managed service to those, such as Disney, who take some steps towards internalizing,” says Ian Robbins.

“Via its One platform, Deluxe is in the position to work with customer wishes and provide a range of options from the traditional managed service model through to a PaaS (Platform as a Service) model where the client is in more control. By designing and building One in a modular fashion, we are able to offer platform services in the same way — providing customers with the choice of what capabilities they would like to internalize and what they would like to outsource to the market for self-service.

“For clients wishing to go further and develop bespoke capability in-house, Deluxe has a wealth of experience and know-how that we are open to use in partnership with customers to ensure they get the outcome they desire and can continue to publish content to all necessary output points. Whether the trend continues towards further internalization of technology development of publish capabilities or if it swings in the opposite direction, Deluxe is strategically positioned with API integration at the core of the platform to support the industry and lean into either model,” Robbins adds.

“The trend established by Disney is an indicator of what will happen with greater pace,” says Videon’s Todd Erdley. “If delivery were based on OTT and linear being the same experience, rapid change would not be needed. We do not feel that linear=OTT is the trend and this is due to how people are consuming video on 2nd screen devices. The data indicates more and more people are using 2nd screen as primary. This creates an opportunity for a highly interactive delivery where differentiated content must be enabled. Broadcasters will look for emerging platforms and service providers to create that fast differentiation.”

 

Following the moves of companies such as Discovery into the cloud for playout, is it now the natural destination for all playout – and is this putting pricing pressure on playout vendors?

Not any time soon according to Pebble Beach Systems! “[Cloud playout] is absolutely still the exception, but these pioneering projects rightly attract much interest within the broadcast community, along with much debate as to whether the hoped-for cost savings actually materialize once systems are deployed,” says Marketing Manager, Alison Pavitt. “We are regularly asked to put proposals together for such deployments, and to participate in exploratory proof of concepts from end users who expect to be playing out from the cloud at some point in the future.

“Customers do see the cloud as a way of gaining efficiency, but let’s not forgot that the majority of channels are always ‘on’, whereas cloud deployments are particularly suited to ‘bursty’ activity. Is it really useful to have an infinitely elastic ecosystem for playout, when playout is usually static? Pricing, however, remains robust. With linear playout still at the heart of broadcasters’ revenue generation, there is emphatically still a strong market for proven, specialist enterprise solutions from expert vendors with experience and ability in this field,” Pavitt adds.

“The cloud does not solve everything, especially when we talk about public cloud, where valuable content is treated just like any other data,” says Broadpeak’s Nivedita Nouvel. “The public cloud is good for some processing, analytics, and head-end functions, but when it comes to delivery, you need to control the network and its equipment (even virtualized and containerized in the operator’s private cloud) to achieve the best QoE possible.”

Transformational change

For Deluxe, “At the moment, we see major broadcasters moving their main channels to the cloud as an exception,” says Ian Robbins. “That said, it’s a trend we expect to see continue as broadcasters gain more trust in the cloud and seek continued workflow and cost efficiencies. But the move to the cloud is more than just a technology change, it’s a transformational exercise for broadcasters and playout service providers which can result in attractive reductions in content distribution costs. As companies take on this transformation, it’s critical they keep the end goal in mind and realize that the software-defined and cloud-based nature of this model ensures that, operationally, the service can be run from any location – it is geographically agnostic, enabling a new variety of servicing models to broadcasters.”

IBM Aspera also sees playout moving towards the cloud, while acknowledging some of the barriers Pebble Beach points out. Says Richard Heitmann: “While the cost for cloud playout with the same resilience and redundancy as traditional infrastructure is still high – and the mentality gap between cloud and traditional broadcast engineering still needs to be overcome (good enough vs. ‘broadcast quality’, iterative vs. stable and wait, etc.) – cloud-based linear playout is expected to grow.

“IBM Aspera is helping broadcasters with the transition. Our Orchestrator and Aspera on Cloud (AoC) automation tools can assist with automating complex content ingest and prep workflows both in and out of the cloud to reduce cost, increase reliability, and therefore, build confidence,” Heitmann asserts.

“Harmonic is also a player in the linear playout cloud space,” says Andy Warman, who also sees the move to the cloud bringing benefits to its customers. “We refer to this as Channel Origination as it represents the start of the content delivery chain, originated in the cloud. We offer a full, end-to-end video delivery solution running on the cloud – supporting everything from live and clip playout to delivery via broadcast and OTT to consumers. This puts us in a unique position, as we can offer as much of the linear and OTT delivery chain as the end user needs. The move to cloud-based playout is actually helping rather than hindering our ability to assist customers in leveraging cloud-based technologies.”

The $64 million question

“The $64 million question is what is a broadcaster achieving by migrating linear playout to the cloud?Essentially, they are third partying their IT team and renting their data center. Is it more cost-effective than building it yourself – eventually, yes,” says Telestream’s Shawn Carnahan. “Moving to the cloud for linear playout is not an inherently difficult thing to do: the key question is one of cost. If broadcasters are migrating to the cloud, they want to exploit any potential economies of scale.

“With the cloud, broadcasters have more elasticity to cater for increases in channel demand. Whenever they win new business, they can build up the new channels in hours. And just as easily, they can tear it down again if they lose the channel playout contract. At Telestream, we introduced OptiQ this year to meet exactly this demand. Whenever you need to create channels automatically, perhaps event-based channels, that meet all the service level expectations associated with 24x7x365 live linear playout. In developing OptiQ, we have solved the challenges associated with this need and applied it to a much broader audience,” Carnahan adds.

“We have made a very significant investment in moving to a cloud-model for playout and can now deliver extremely complex broadcast channels from our cloud-based operations,” says Red Bee Media’s Steve Russell, who also points to their “agility and flexibility, which boost opportunities for growth for our customers. What cost benefits cloud does bring come through faster deployment time rather than lower licencing costs. If they focus on automated deployment and efficient operations, vendors can still offer a great deal of value in the Linear Playout space. Our new platform has been born out of investment in software, engineering, operational innovation, partnerships and private cloud infrastructure. Public cloud is fantastic for many use cases, but it is not ready for primetime, live, uncompressed, low latency linear experiences at this point on numerous levels.”

Is latency still an issue in live streaming –what hurdles still have to be overcome?

“If you ask 10 people to define ‘latency’, you might get 12 different answers!” jokes IBM Aspera’s Richard Heitmann. “Where possible and necessary, latency should be kept to a minimum to keep the in-venue fan experience in time with the event, support remote control/operations (REMI), and prevent ‘New York Neighbor’ syndrome. Further, artificial latency – while in some cases offering a higher class of service – gives the originator less control over end-to-end timing and release.

“Encoding/decoding technology could still be improved to provide lower latency at lower cost for contribution. Recent innovations like CMAF (Common Media Application Format) and low latency HLS may help with reduced latency over the ‘last mile’ to the consumer. IBM Aspera’s streaming technology can substantially reduce contribution transport latency while maintaining high fidelity, resiliency and reliability. When combined with low-latency encoding and decoding, end-to-end contribution latency can be significantly reduced, leaving any significant latency on the distribution side,” Heitmann adds.

Barriers still to be overcome

“Latency is the #1 issue for live streaming,” says Videon’s Todd Erdley. “The days of linear being delivered 30+ seconds in advance of OTT will come to an end very soon. By 2022, the latency discussion will go away for OTT vs live. Latency will then take another twist as OTT provides the opportunity for true interaction. And with 2nd screen becoming first screen, OTT will experience another rush to move from linear latency levels to truly interactive latency and this will be done at mass scale. Overcoming the first hurdle can be done through broad adoption of CMAF with HTTP streaming. That can solve the linear/OTT problem. Moving to interactive delivery will require a shake out of technology including WebSocket, WebRTC, Apple LLHLS, advances in HTTP streaming along with new signaling standards. This shake out is slowly happening but will not be available for wide adoption until we initially solve the OTT/Linear latency barrier.”

“Latency continues to improve,” asserts Harmonic’s Andy Warman. “We are seeing latency in the 5- to 6-second range for OTT-based live streaming and playout from the cloud. This puts latency for OTT in the same range as broadcast. The result is that, for example, live sports viewers for streaming via OTT and broadcast see the game action at the same time. This is possible thanks to CMAF (fragmented MP4 or fMP4), which enables much lower latency delivery to consumer devices. The challenge is iOS went a different route than CMAF LLC, and we still do not have a unified workflow where we can package, encrypt and stream one file format with two manifests (i.e., DAS/HLS).”

“The big question is what are your expectations?” says Telestream’s Shawn Carnahan, reflecting Richard Heitmann’s answer above. “The elegance of http-based OTT is that it enables media distribution through content delivery networks that don’t treat media any differently than a web page. When we first did it, people said, ‘Wow, that’s cool! Yes, there’s latency but the positives more than outweigh the negatives.’ Now, as this is understood, there has been a search to optimize the video through conventional approaches. If we can reduce latency to around 10 seconds without having to change the network, that is largely problem solved for the vast majority of applications… the standardization efforts of DASH and HLS have largely solved the problems for mainstream applications.”

“Latency is still an issue for linear OTT, but the technology is ready to overcome this and provide latencies similar to traditional broadcast,” says Nick Fielibert. “Synamedia is a leader in this space and provides an end-to-end approach that avoids a weak link in the chain. For example, in some cases the OTT player is not supported by the devices. This is now also changing with Apple providing its own low latency HLS specification, which we support.”

Standards required

Red Bee Media’s Steve Russell thinks the latency problem is being mastered but standards work still needs to be done. “We have received a lot of attention and recognition for our market-leading work here – delivering as low as 3.5 second latency for live OTT streams. The challenge we overcame was to deliver low-latency results using open standards so that we can still inter-operate with the wider tech ecosystem. These technologies are still maturing, as standards adoption takes time.”

Standards are also an issue identified by Deluxe. “Beyond production we are still seeing latency being a typical sticking point due to the variety of formats and standards that need to be supported,” says Nav Khangura. “CMAF is a new standard announced by Apple and Microsoft which aims to address the low latency requirements by introducing chunked encoding and chunked transfer encoding. This approach not only reduces costs and complexity (by doing away with multiple formats for multiple devices), but it also has the potential to reduce latency to the sub-three second mark. The major hurdle that needs to be overcome now is actually rolling out CMAF on a broad range across the industry. The success of CMAF will solely rely on the uptake by the industry. For example: Apple recently announced their own ‘Low-Latency HLS’ which once again contradicts the push to try and standardize the industry to CMAF.”

Mainstreaming has also reduced latency problems –through a combination of direct connections and AI.

“Network workflows are essential to minimizing the way video is streamed which is why we realized we couldn’t rely on legacy providers and instead built up our own network that connects to clients at the point of ingest and directly interconnects with ISPs to deliver video seamlessly to audiences,” says Antonio Corrado. “With our AI that also prevents congestion and this approach, we have decreased latency by up to 3x the standard rate, essentially increasing the speed of streams TTFF (Time To First Frame) and E2E (End-to-end) delivery.”

“Latency has become a way for network operators to differentiate themselves,” says Broadpeak’s Nivedita Nouvel. “Many technology providers pitch low-latency solutions based only on head-end (i.e., encoding and packaging) and player optimizations, but they forget the network implied in the delivery. It is a mistake that leads to low-latency solutions that work in the lab but not in real conditions. At Broadpeak, we have solved this by combining CMAF Low Latency with a multicast ABR managed network, creating the conditions necessary to reduce buffer sizes in players without impacting service continuity and hence QoE.”

Try and try again

“Yes, latency is still an issue,” says Tim Felstead from Rohde & Schwarz, giving us a recent example – and providing me with the perfect link to the next question on 5G. “One of our Munich based staff members was watching the Rugby World Cup semi-final over a streamed service. They received text messages from New Zealand (the country) saying the English team had scored very early in the match BEFORE seeing it happen on the screens in Munich. That said, I think there is a difference between the state of the art in deployments and the state of the art in current technology. There are solutions to reduce latency across network components and R&S is busy building one in the shape of 5G Broadcast. Latency in 5G Broadcast is tiny in that part of the network 5G broadcasting technology so if the other parts fall into line (encoding, network buffering etc.) then this is certainly a solvable problem.”

5G – an incremental advance or a revolution for content distribution?

“Advances in networks are crucial to industry advancement,” says Steve Russell of Red Bee Media. “It’s about wider pipes and greater agility in points of content acquisition and distribution. Yes, it’s all incremental, of course, but 5G offers a really important step-change in capacity and capability. We are leaders in live and are really excited by what 5G offers in that domains for sports, events and greater interaction for fans everywhere.”

Videon agrees on the content acquisition side of the 5G equation, but sees some barriers to full-on consumer adoption. “In the next few years 5G will revolutionize event production in a controlled environment,” says Todd Erdley.” 5G will merely be a small incremental gain for consumers until such time that consumers can use high speed data delivery in the manner they expect. Such expectations will only be met when propagation issues are solved which is a very, very, very significant problem for the highest data rate 5G.”

Revolutionizing content distribution

IBM Aspera has some skin in the 5G game, and sees a bright future. “5G will revolutionize content distribution, particularly for more personalized content,” says Richard Heitmann. “5G as a cellular platform offers faster speeds and reduced latency resulting in higher resolution and higher bitrates. The user experience can also be greatly enhanced, especially when combined with edge computing. New AR/VR experiences require real-time processing in the supply chain.

“For 5G as a wireless LAN, there will be substantially improved network throughput and offerings. The most common use case for this will be in (sports) venue real-time fan interaction. If content is served locally (from the venue), the offerings could be endless with instant and fast delivery. IBM Aspera will continue to provide transport layer improvements with 5G, in addition to core enhancements to FASP transfer and streaming technologies which will continue to have a prominent place in the delivery/distribution ecosystem.”

Will mobile become 1st screen with 5G?

While seeing some advantages, Telestream’s Shawn Carnahan is skeptical of the wider benefits of 5G. “Will 5G make better experiences more portable – yes, highly likely. There’s definitely something to be said for portability. It doesn’t affect the content – it just further moves the viewing experience to smartphones. But a key question to me is just how good can that experience be on a four-inch screen? At Telestream, we’re doing a lot of work with HDR, which is a technology that really positively impacts the home viewing experience. But, how much of that quality can be seen on a smartphone in bright daylight?”

But just maybe the future will be mobile-first viewing, in which case Antonio Corrado at Mainstreaming’s optimism is justified. “5G will be great for content distribution as it will increase the bandwidth every device is able to utilize which may possibly push the industry into a mobile-first focus for video streaming. The best part about 5G is that delivery networks will essentially be able to stream video more easily compared to the existing 4G networks today as it will increase speeds and the ability to stream heavier files,” Corrado says.

Deluxe’s Ian Robbins also sees 5G driving mobile viewing. “Improved speeds [with 5G] should continue to drive the demand from consumers to watch more and more video on the go, with this increasingly stretching to the streaming of feature content and live events versus the streaming of short form and the viewing of downloads. I expect that 5G will also be an enabler for the type of content being viewed on the go with an increasing desire to watch things in UHD with the greater transfer speeds offered by 5G. In this sense, I think it’s likely that 5G will have big impact on content distribution as we’ll see increased volumes of content, in increasingly advanced formats, being distributed to
‘on the go’ platforms,” Robbins says.

Harmonic’s Andy Warman also sees a bright 5G future. “5G is a new technology that will lead to new services and therefore new revenue streams. Some of the services that will be offered with 5G not currently available for 4G include: multi-game, multi-view, virtual reality and augmented reality to mobile devices. We expect mass adoption in 2022-2024, given that only a few countries will have a 5G network set up in 2020.”

Eliminating the network bottleneck

Avraham Poupko, Manager of the Architects Team at Synamedia, also predicts a massive impact for 5G: “We believe that 5G will revolutionize content distribution.

“One of the main barriers to offering truly interactive content at very high definition is the network. 5G will eliminate that bottleneck. The increase in delivery capacity with 5G will allow video service providers to distribute bandwidth-intensive content including 4K and high quality interactive content such as 8K based virtual reality.

“We then expect breakthroughs in related areas such as high availability storage and video processing. Synamedia is paying close attention to this space and plans to play a leading role in this revolution,” Poupko concludes.

Final word on 5G goes to Rohde & Schwarz, who are heavily involved in 5G broadcast testing and rollout.

“R&S believes in 5G Broadcasting (and as a corporation the wider 5G standard as a whole),” says Tim Felstead. “We believe that 5G Broadcasting is a huge opportunity for several industries including and beyond live entertainment distribution. In the media space we see it as a goal that our industry has been working towards for some time; linear media delivery to mobile / telecoms-based consumer devices. For the first time we have a telecoms-based standard that has been written with broadcasting input from the very beginning. This makes delivery to mobile devices highly network efficient (read any number of articles about the explosion of video content consumption that will saturate networks), with very low latency and that can operate SIM-free (to tablets without a contract for example).”

Piracy remains a major issue with losses in the $billions being reported. How are you helping your customers to fight back?

With $billions of potential revenues being lost to video piracy, this is a key battlefront if broadcasters and media companies are going to be able to get the returns on their content investments to fund the creation of new content – and of course, remain profitable. Alan Ogilvie, Lead Product Manager at Friend MTS, recognizes this, and has some weapons to help the industry fight back. “Friend MTS recognizes that piracy directly impacts your investment in content, whether that’s the money spent on content creation or the revenue associated with content distribution,” Ogilvie says.

Protecting investment and revenue

“We have tools to aid the fight to retain control and protect your investment and revenue models. On OTT, some people still believe that Digital Rights Management is enough. In the Conditional Access systems in Satellite, some believe that’s enough too. It certainly isn’t. While these methods are important, it’s vital you let us apply an audience-imperceptible watermark either in the distribution chain and/or on the client-side in a robust and trusted manner. Then you need our global monitoring and investigations services to go looking for your content being pirated and to determine the subscriber that leaked it or the distribution method used. These proprietary technologies work together to help you to detect, deter and disable so that you can protect your investment or revenue,” Ogilvie concludes.

“IBM Aspera has always offered the ability for both encryption in transit and encryption at rest,” says Richard Heitmann, who also agrees that integration with specialist services is the way forward for complete protection. “At rest, encryption supports both client side and server-side secrets. This is just part of a solid content security framework. When used properly, encryption at rest is a reliable deterrent.

“Further, we recently released an automation feature for Aspera on Cloud that allows integration with third-party services as part of the file transfer process. Specifically, along with our partner, Irdeto, we have integrated forensic watermarking capabilities into our distribution workflow, thus enabling content to be tracked to each recipient. This automation feature to incorporate third-party best-of-breed services such as watermarking, fingerprinting, blockchain and the like, significantly improves security for high-value content,” Heitmann concludes.

Staying ahead of the pirates

Final word on piracy goes to Synamedia, whose Video Security Product Manager, Rinat Burdo, points out that “Synamedia has a track record in securing Pay-TV services and revenues for over 30 years. We support our customers with layers of security to stay ahead of the pirates – anticipating their attacks and reaction to our security counter measures. This includes preventative measures as well as reactive measures to fight the inherent ecosystem vulnerabilities that pirates exploit.”

Burdo continues, “Our approach is to offer an end-to-end solution rather than point products. This approach is more effective against attacks that exploit the weakest link, and provides our customer with a continually enhanced umbrella against evolving attacks.”

Burdo agrees with Friend MTS’s Alan Ogilvie that to complete the circle, you need to be actively on the look out for piracy too. “Proactive intelligence is the key to an effective anti-piracy solution. This intelligence has to be global because streaming piracy ignores any country borders. We employ technology tools and data analytics to track pirate activities at scale. We combine it with human intelligence to investigate pirate operations, and anticipate pirate next steps, as well as forensic analysis of tools used by pirates. Armed with this knowledge our solutions are ready to defend our customers’ systems against new and evolving attacks,” Burdo concludes.

Videon EdgeCaster Edge Compute Encoder Compatibility With AWS Elemental MediaStore

Videon EdgeCaster Edge Compute Encoder Compatibility With AWS Elemental MediaStore Enables a Cost-Effective, Low Latency Solution

Videon EdgeCaster is the Industry’s First Third-Party Encoder to be Compatible with AWS Elemental MediaStore

 

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Nov. 26, 2019 — Videon today announced compatibility with AWS Elemental MediaStore, enabling a cost-effective, low-latency solution. Videon customers can now use AWS Elemental MediaStore as a direct ingest from the EdgeCaster H.264/HEVC video encoding platform to support ultra-low latency workflows with outputs supporting both HLS and DASH using CMAF. AWS Elemental MediaStore’s support of EdgeCaster’s ingest protocols enables less than three-second worldwide latency to be achieved with standards-based, scalable, and cost-effective workflows.

“Live streaming should not come with a latency penalty as compared to traditional broadcast TV,” said Todd Erdley, founder and CEO of Videon. “EdgeCaster’s compatibility with AWS Elemental MediaStore is a strong step forward to making live streaming truly live —using standards-based, viewer-scalable, and cost-effective solutions. Compatibility with AWS Elemental MediaStore represents an important development in our relationship with Amazon Web Services. AWS Elemental offers crucial insight into how streams can be ingested into AWS Elemental MediaStore and how Videon can optimize our platform.”

As the first third-party encoder that is compatible with AWS Elemental MediaStore, EdgeCaster allows customers to experience streamlined, ultra-low-latency streaming that reduces the time and cost associated with live streaming. EdgeCaster makes live streaming truly live by eliminates time-intensive, computational processes in the cloud, and instead, handling these tasks at the network edge, thus increasing efficiency.

Key to EdgeCaster’s management of time-laden cloud functions is the intellectual property Videon developed based on Qualcomm® technology. With the processing power of the SnapDragon™chip, EdgeCaster streams at resolutions up to 4K at 30 FPS using either H.264 or H.265/HEVC compression. EdgeCaster has the ability to provide HLS and DASH outputs using CMAF along with supporting up to six bit-rates, ensuring that ultra-low latency workflows with MediaStore can be efficiently deployed.

AWS Elemental MediaStore is a storage service from Amazon Web Services (AWS) optimized for media. It gives users the performance, consistency, and low latency required to deliver live streaming video content. AWS Elemental MediaStore acts as the origin store in a video workflow. Its high-performance capabilities meet the needs of the most demanding media delivery workloads, combined with long-term, cost-effective storage.

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About Videon
Videon is a world-leading provider of ultra-low latency, high-resolution, high-performance streaming solutions that enable users in the prosumer, pro-AV, and broadcast markets to simplify streaming workflows and reduce costs. Videon has also partnered with top software brands around the globe to incorporate its technology solutions into millions of devices. Videon actively supports its employees, its community, and the environment by emphasizing the belief that employees should care more about others than they do about themselves. More information is available at https://videon-central.com.